Working on the mantua

I finally put pencil and ink to paper and got my idea in colour.

Why? The direction of boning is as important as the shape of the pieces. If the boning is vertical it tends to follow the shape of the body more closely- it scoops in at the waist and out over ribs and bust and padding. On the diagonal it acts to channel soft body tissue into the seam with the V. So this gives us the variation in the conical shape.

I think I have found the perfect set of stays to mimic for my own. I am not sure about the breadth across the upper front for me but otherwise it is close.

Date: late 17th–early 18th century
Culture: French
Medium: silk, metallic thread
Credit Line: Purchase, Irene Lewisohn Bequest, 1975
Accession Number: 1975.34.2a–c

early 1700s – Auction House Coutau- Bégarie – Corps à baleines, début du XVIIIe siècle,en damas ramagé rose, piqûres rectilignes soulignant les baleines. Devant en pointe arrondie à effet de corset lacé matérialisé par des dentelles aux fuseaux en sorbec argent, basques gainées de peau. Laçage à oeillets dans le dos, (quelques usures).

I am mostly happy with my stays but I’ll unpick the front panels as I want them on the straight. A whole lot of stays in museums are just labeled “18thC” which is not really helpful given how much the engineering of these stays changed.

I used my Effigy stays for fit and redrew seam lines. I used the Garsault diagram not the Diderot pattern. Garsault is slightly easier to see all the seam lines.

Compare Art du tailleur : contenant le tailleur d’habits … Garsault, François-Alexandre-Pierre de (1693-1778):

with “Tailleur d’habits et tailleur de corps,” Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 9 (plates). Paris, 1771.


I also had Leloir in mind to look for consistencies and differences.

I also used the two sets of stays from Corsets and Crinolines to again look for consistencies and differences.

And also used Hunnisett as a guide, there is a pattern scanned out there labeled as from Waugh which is actually from Hunnisett.

This 1680s set has vertical boning strategically placed at CF CB and sides. This keeps the shape very straight and in fact with a little scoop and tilt back of the front. This follows fashion.

This from the 1730s has a lot of boning on angles to allow for the front to tilt forward every so much. There is still a sweep to the waist it is the start of the very lilted forward shape we see once busks really start to take hold.

Interestingly a very similar bit of engineering goes on for the S front corsets of the 1900s. A very rigid straight busk cases the hips to tilt back and the upper tilt forward, it’s not just the rigid straight busk that is similar but also the use of very diagonal, almost horizontal seams.

I need a nearly vertical front that curves at almost the same degree from top to bottom.

Maria Luisa of Savoy (1688-1714)

This portrait neatly shows the push up effect of the stays (narrow and tall with lots of vertical bones) but the start of a bit of a tilt forward due to the start of a very straight and rigid font.

I’ve cut them so that I can use the front of each panel for vertical support while the back is tapered more or less.

I love stays with a laced open front as it can allow for a pair of stays to be adjusted a bit to mimic some later styles- eras where length becomes defining. In fact there are a few sets of stays dated to the 1780s that use so many of these features- long skinny tabs that mostly have the boning going straight through, lots of vertical boning.

I do though need some new boning. It’s difficult because no two manufacturers use the same process. My favourite was very clearly extruded and so there are parallel lines running through it. It was very rigid, and was quite oval in cross section. This is important for structure as it’s harder to bend that shape than a more flat cross section.

But I do have steels to help support, once I can cut them. So many projects on hold as I need the support structure to start patterning. I can’t use the aviation shears that came with them. So I’m trying to get creative.